HRN publishes a report on extremely hazardous child labor practices at coal mines in Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya, India (2011)
Following an invitation from the Impulse NGO Network (based in Shillong, Meghalaya), Human Rights Now (HRN) sent a fact-finding mission to investigate the situation of children working at the mines in the Jaintia Hills area of India. The HRN fact-finding mission conducted three days of extensive investigation, from 31st May to 2nd June 2010, in three areas with coal mines. The subsequent report entitled “Child labor in the mines of Meghalaya” has now been released.
The mining industry in the Jaintia Hills area of the state of Meghalaya, India, has grown substantially over the past thirty years, sustained by labor from neighboring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh, as well as from other areas of India..
HRN visited actual working places, including deep underground so called “rat holes”, and observed the working conditions. It also conducted interviews with more than 50 people, including workers, children, families, supervisors, managers and owners. This report includes details from 39 out of the total number of interviews conducted. Within these 39 interviews, 26 interviewees are children, three children each at ages 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 years old respectively (fifteen in total), five 17-year-old children, and six 18-year-olds, all of whom are involved in coal mining. At the completion of the investigation, the HRN fact-finding team concluded that extremely hazardous and inhumane child labor practices are widely practiced in the coal mines owned by individuals in Jaintia Hills.
Significant numbers of the children are trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh. Many of the children, including those under the age of 14, are placed in extremely dangerous working environments, with situations involving slavery-like practices. At the same time, these children are exploited and usually paid half the wages given to an adult.
This report describes the daily reality of labor conditions, human rights violations, exploitation, and the trafficking of children involved. It also asks both the Indian government and the international community to immediately address the situation and save the victimized children, as well as adopt comprehensive measures to end the vicious circle of child labor in coal mines around the area.